Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals such as coal and metals for use in manufacturing and utilities.
Mining and geological engineers typically do the following:
- Design open-pit and underground mines
- Supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels
- Devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants
- Prepare technical reports for miners, engineers, and managers
- Monitor mine production to assess the effectiveness of operations
- Provide solutions to problems related to land reclamation, water and air pollution, and sustainability
- Ensure that mines are operated in safe and environmentally sound ways
Geological engineers search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites. Once a site is identified, they plan how the metals or minerals will be extracted in efficient and environmentally sound ways.
Mining engineers often specialize in one particular mineral or metal, such as coal or gold. They typically design and develop mines and determine the best way to extract metal or minerals to get the most out of deposits.
Some mining engineers work with geoscientists and metallurgical engineers to find and evaluate ore deposits. Other mining engineers develop new equipment or direct mineral-processing operations to separate minerals from dirt, rock, and other materials.
Mining safety engineers use best practices and their knowledge of mine design to ensure workers’ safety and to maintain compliance with state and federal safety regulations. They inspect the walls and roofs of mines, monitor the air quality, and examine mining equipment for possible hazards.
Engineers who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree may teach engineering at colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.
Mining and geological engineers held about 5,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of mining and geological engineers were as follows:
|Metal ore mining||15|
|Oil and gas extraction||6|
Many work where mining operations are located, such as mineral mines or sand-and-gravel quarries, in remote areas or near cities and towns. Others work in offices or onsite for oil and gas extraction firms or engineering services firms.
Most mining and geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more hours than usual.
A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer, including a mining safety engineer. Requirements for licensure vary by state but most states require applicants to pass two exams.
High school students interested in entering mining or geological engineering programs in college should take courses in mathematics and science.
Relatively few schools offer mining engineering or geological engineering programs. Typical bachelor’s degree programs in mining engineering include courses in geology, physics, thermodynamics, mine design and safety, and mathematics. Bachelor’s degree programs in geological engineering typically include courses in geology, chemistry, fluid mechanics, physics, and mathematics. Both types of programs also include laboratory and field work, as well as traditional classroom study.
A related degree, such as civil or environmental engineering or geoscience, may be acceptable for some positions as a mining or geological engineer.
Programs in mining and geological engineering are accredited by ABET, whose accreditation is based on a program’s faculty, curriculum, facilities, and other factors.
Master’s degree programs in mining and geological engineering typically are 2-year programs and include coursework in specialized subjects, such as mineral resource development and mining regulations. Some programs require a written thesis for graduation.
Analytical skills. Mining and geological engineers must take many factors into account when evaluating new mine locations and designing facilities. They must also plan for the restoration of the surrounding environment after operations end.
Decisionmaking skills. These engineers make decisions that influence many critical outcomes—from worker safety to mine production. The ability to anticipate problems and deal with them immediately is crucial.
Logical-thinking skills. In planning mines’ operations, mineral processing, and environmental reclamation, these engineers have to put work plans into a coherent, logical sequence.
Math skills. Mining and geological engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. Mining and geological engineers must explore for potential mines, plan their operations and mineral processing, and design environmental reclamation projects. These are all complex projects requiring an ability to identify and work toward goals, while solving problems along the way.
Writing skills. Mining and geological engineers must prepare reports and instructions for other workers. Therefore, they must be able to write clearly so that others can easily understand their ideas and plans.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mining or geological engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires
- A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
- A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
- Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
- A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.
In several states, engineers must earn continuing education credits to keep their licenses. Most states recognize licenses from other states, provided that licensure requirements in the other states meet or exceed the first state’s own requirements.
New mining and geological engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects and they are given greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.
Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or supervise a staff or team of engineers and technicians. Some eventually become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss a product’s technical aspects and to assist in product planning, installation, and use. For more information, see the profiles on architectural and engineering managers and sales engineers.
The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $92,250 in May 2018.
The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $151,030.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for mining and geological engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Oil and gas extraction||$110,470|
|Metal ore mining||89,000|
Most mining and geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more than usual.
Mining and Geological Engineers
Median annual wages, May 2018
- Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers
- Total, all occupations
Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2018 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.
Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will depend upon demand for coal, metals, and minerals. These resources are used in many products, from construction materials and cars to cell phones and computers. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering services firms, rather than employ engineers directly.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28||Employment by Industry|
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program
Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of mining and geological engineers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2018|
Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.
Civil engineers design, build, and supervise infrastructure projects and systems.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.
Geological and Petroleum Technicians
Geological and petroleum technicians provide support to scientists and engineers in exploring and extracting natural resources.
Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.
Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust.
Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices.
Petroleum engineers design and develop methods for extracting oil and gas from deposits below the Earth’s surface.
Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.
Health and Safety Engineers
Health and safety engineers combine knowledge of engineering and of health and safety to develop procedures and design systems to protect people from illness and injury and property from damage.
For more information about mining and geological engineers, visit
For information about general engineering education and career resources, visit
Technology Student Association
For more information about licensure as a mining or geological engineer, visit
National Society of Professional Engineers
For information about accredited engineering programs, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mining and Geological Engineers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mining-and-geological-engineers.htm (visited ).
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